Shop smart: meet the best London department stores offering more
Far from fading away; meet the London department stores defying the retail downturn with in-store events, exclusive services and must-have fashion buys
Luckily, department stores are putting customer experience at the heart of their strategy, fighting back against efficient but impersonal e-commerce competitors. Which means that our favourite department stores are offering more in-store events, special services and exclusive fashion buys than ever before. Read on for our guide to the must-visit London department stores and discover the services, products and shopping hacks that will lead you to rediscover the joy of shopping.
SelfridgesWhen it comes to enticing customers to shop in person, Selfridges' vast Oxford Street store takes things to another level, with past creative campaigns including a live music venue, an Everyman Cinema and, most recently, an indoor skate bowl operated by a team of pro-skaters in the Men's Designer Street Room. Currently hosting its 'State of the Arts' campaign, visitors can experience and engage with art across the store windows and shop floors, exploring where the line falls between art and fashion.
As well as specialist permanent areas dedicated to shoes, denim, fitness, accessories and ready-to-wear, a series of pop-ups bring branded takeovers to the Oxford Street store throughout the year. Street style favourite Stine Goya has just launched a statement-making pink pop-up in the Contemporary Studio, while Victoria Beckham's spring/summer 19 collection is popping up in the Atrium on the second floor.
Culture Whisper tip: Want to make shopping a truly relaxing experience? Check your coat and bags at the Customer Services Lounge on the fourth floor (£3 fee, waived for Selfridges shopping bags) so you can explore this temple to fashion and beauty unencumbered.
FenwickCharmingly old-school but not the least bit old-fashioned, customer service is at the heart of the branch of Fenwick on Bond Street. The welcoming store is bright and uncluttered with homely design touches, and is a place to find surprisingly modern buys amidst a particularly strong collection of mid-range designers.
The millinery department is unrivalled in London – a must-visit for those with big occasions or events such as Royal Ascot coming up. Turn to find specialist adviser Mr Tony, who is on hand to help you choose between designs from acclaimed names including Stephen Jones, Philip Treacy and Rachel Trevor-Morgan.
In need of a bit of polish before a big presentation but just can't find the time? The beauty hall services include Radio Salon Blow Dry Bar, Nails Inc, and Blink Brow Bar, where threading, tinting and body waxing are available from 8am, before the store opens.
The store also has a roster of fun and interactive beauty events including a Portrait Experience with Chanel, a floral masterclass with Jo Malone London and personalised beauty consultations with Frey-ja Barker.
Culture Whisper tip: Take advantage of the Dropit service and have shopping bags from Fenwick and other stores delivered to your home or hotel (£10 fee, unlimited bags).
HarrodsPerhaps the most extra of all London's department stores, Harrods is still the pinnacle of luxury shopping with a clientele as glittering as it's Knightsbridge facade. In-store services include bespoke tailoring and made-to-measure menswear, a Wellness Clinic offering treatments such as vitamin drips and cryotherapy, and luxury body piercing from Maria Tash.
If your budget won't stretch to bespoke, there are plenty of personalisation services available: this month, pop-ups where goods can be customised can be found at 7 For All Mankind and Anya Hindmarch, ensuring your new season buys are one-of-a-kind.
Culture Whisper tip: Store layouts can change pretty quickly, so even if you feel right at home in the hallowed halls of Harrods (lucky you) it's worth downloading the mobile app for an interactive map which can not only help you locate your favourite brand but will show you the most-direct route.
Harvey NicholsTaking pride in its under-the-radar offering, as well as all the big names you'd expect from a luxury department store, Harvey Nichols does things a bit differently. Take, for example, its recent Maiyet Collective pop-up celebrating sustainable luxury fashion, jewellery, lifestyle and home brands, or its Sunday School series of beauty events and talks.
Not in the market for a new bag, but your old-favourite needs a bit of TLC? The Restory will handle that for you, with a special service to revive, repair and restore handbags and shoes.
It's easy to feel overwhelmed by the eight floors of beauty, fashion and food, so take advantage of the Store Concierge service which can provide directions, book in-store services and even advise on services outside of the store.
Culture Whisper tip: Download the Harvey Nichols Rewards app to earn loyalty points and unlock rewards – big spenders can expect to redeem gifts such as hampers and treatments, as well as exclusive access to new collections, sale previews and even free coffees and beauty samples.